Sunday, 31 May 2015

Brent Foodbank: Could you volunteer to collect food donations for just 3 hours in the first week of July?

Request from Brent Foodback
At Brent Foodbank we are looking for volunteers to help us with a food collection on 2 / 3 / 4 July - including at Tesco Extra Wembley (across from Ikea) and Tesco Metro Wembley Central - and we have a feeling that some Wembley Matters readers might be interested in helping out, or are involved with youth groups or other groups who also might.  Brent Foodbank page at

There's more info on the page but these are the essentials:

13 million people live below the poverty line. Our foodbank provides a minimum of 3 days emergency food and support to local Brent residents in crisis.

On 2nd, 3rd and 4th July 2015, Tesco stores nationwide are hosting a food collection to support the UK's foodbanks.
What can you do to help?
We need 100 of you to each give 3 hours of your time to greet shoppers at 3 Brent stores and ask them to buy an item from our shopping list.
Where do we need you?

We are greeting shoppers and collecting food items at the following stores:
  • Tesco Extra Wembley (across from Ikea) 
  • Tesco Metro Harlesden
  • Tesco Metro Wembley Central
When are we collecting food? 

We're asking you to sign up to volunteer for 3 hours on any of the following days:
  • Thursday 2nd July between 9 am and 6 pm
  • Friday 3rd July between 10 am and 10 pm
  • Saturday 4th July between 10 and and 10 pm
What do you do next?

Please Message us via the Message button on our Facebook page, or leave a comment, and we will be in touch with more info.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Quintain Wembley Masterplan Public Exhibition June 12th-16th

This invitation appears to have had only limited circulation top residents in the Wembley Stadium area so I am reprinting it here for information:

Yellow Pavilion, Olympic Way, Wembley, HA9 0FA

I am writing to you on behalf of Quintain Estates & Development plc – one of London’s leading investment and development specialists – to inform you about our plans to consult on the latest phase of the regeneration of Wembley Park. As a representative of a key local community group, I would like to invite you and your fellow members to come and view our latest plans at a public exhibition.

Quintain has been leading the development of Wembley Park since 2002. During this time, we have helped to shape the area and deliver substantial benefits including new homes, jobs, shops, hotels, public realm space and other amenities – all of which have helped to improve Wembley for local residents and new occupiers.

We are now looking to bring forward our masterplan proposals for the remainder of the land within Quintain’s ownership and we are keen to engage with the local community to help shape our designs for the area. As part of our consultation programme we will be holding a public exhibition to showcase our early ideas and to hear your thoughts; this will be held in the foyer of The Yellow Pavilion, Olympic Way, Wembley, HA9 0FA on:

  • Friday 12th June 3pm-7pm
  • Saturday 13th June 11am-4pm
  • Sunday 14th June 11am-3pm
  • Monday 15th June 11am-7pm
  • Tuesday 16th June 3pm-7pm

Architects, Flanagan Lawrence, who are working up the masterplan designs, will be on hand with members of the Quintain team to answer questions and talk through the proposals. The exhibition will also give you an opportunity to see what has already been delivered to date as part of the on-going transformation of Wembley Park.

I hope you and fellow members are able to join us but if the times above are not convenient we would be pleased to come to a meeting of your group to set out our proposals. If you would like any further information or have any questions, please email us at or freephone 0800 014 2427 and a member of the project team will get back to you.

Green Party solidarity for National Gallery strikers at PCS Rally in Trafalgar Square

As the Conservative Government moves to tighten anti-trade union laws, Romayne Phoenix, Green Party Trade Union Liaison officer, spoke today at the solidarity rally for National Gallery workers striking against privatisation. The rally was organised by their union the PCS and supported by the Green Party Trade Union Group.

Potential unintended cosequences of a 7 day NHS

Reposted from Open Democracy - Our NHS LINK, author Dr David Wrigley, under Creative Commons terms LINK. No changes have been made from the original text.

“We can become the first country in the world to deliver a truly 7-day NHS”, David Cameron used his ‘first major speech’ of his brand new Conservative majority government to tell us.

It sounds appealing - but does it stand up to scrutiny, or is it just more spin from the former spin doctor?

With 5 years of unconstrained power ahead of him, Cameron will now be expected to deliver on this key Tory manifesto promise.

If Cameron really wants to achieve a 7-day NHS he needs a 7 point plan. 

1. Get the 5 days right first.

If the government wants to make the NHS work safely and efficiently 7 days a week, then it might be a good idea to get the 5 days of Monday-Friday working well beforehand. At the moment the NHS is in dire financial straits – and its demoralised doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are leaving or retiring early. What was the adage Cameron likes to use – fix the roof while the sun is shining? Well the sun isn’t shining much in the NHS these days - but you certainly need to fix the roof Mr Cameron, and pretty sharpish. 

2. Invest in your NHS staff 

Nurses got years of 0% or (at best) 1% pay increases during the coalition years. They effectively ‘donated’ over £1.5bn a year of unpaid overtime to keep the NHS afloat amidst the cuts. They were pilloried for failures that were not of their making. Blamed for scandals that were often due to hospitals chasing Foundation Trust status at all costs, their eye only on the bottom line. Many health professionals are becoming unwell now because they cannot give any more to the job they love. The number of nurses off with stress soared by up to 48% last year.

How are they going to feel now the government tells them that in a 24/7 NHS it will be “archaic” to pay supplements for working “unsocial hours”? Many nurses rely on these payments to boost their stagnating income.

3. Get your workforce planning sorted 

Cameron claimed last week that “We are training and hiring many more GPs right now”. But in fact one third of GP training places are empty. And one in three GPs plan to retire in the next 5 years, leading to a workforce time bomb fuelled by 5 years of unpopular NHS policies and huge cuts (known as ‘efficiency savings’).

4. Sort out social care and community healthcare
The huge cuts to local authorities has meant social care being cut to the bone, with budgets being slashed by up to 35%. Many elderly and vulnerable patients are being left alone or with haphazard 10 minute visits from zero-hour contract workers who have to dash from client to client in order to make any sort of living. These patients are becoming increasingly unwell and needing more NHS care. Inadequate community healthcare services (district nurses have been cut by 40% in 5 years) mean they languish in hospital beds, unable to be discharged safely to the community.

5. End the dog eat dog competitive market in the NHS 

We are wasting billions annually on administering an unwanted healthcare market where providers fight each other for contracts and NHS managers spend their lives refereeing and sorting this all out. No one (except the private health industry) has asked for this. The money saved from scrapping this market system could fund decent social care for all the elderly and vulnerable people in our society.

6. Make all NHS services available 7 days a week 

But tell us – as Cameron has so far refused to – what it would cost. Doing it properly would cost billions. As a GP if I see a patient on a Saturday or a Sunday I need the full range of services available to me in order to treat my patients effectively. I need a fully functioning hospital laboratory with blood collection services twice a day over the weekend. I need access to NHS physiotherapy for my patients with urgent musculoskeletal problems. I need access to health visitors to refer children needing their input. I need access to a fully functioning radiology department offering x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasound and other investigations. 

7. Beware of the unintended consequences

Increasing the NHS to a full 7 day service will increase demand – and therefore cost. Cameron’s promised ‘extra’ £8bn would merely plug one small gap in the black hole opening up at the centre of the Department of Health. To stretch already overstretched services more thinly will lead to a poorer service in coming years – and no doubt, the electorate to blame the government for a failing NHS. Cameron may have already said he will be leaving Downing Street before 2020, but is this really the legacy he will want to leave for his successor?

A 7 day NHS service is attractive to patients and attractive to politicians seeking votes. But no other western health economy has managed to provide it, as Cameron said himself. With the NHS already struggling many really doubt this government can do it properly. I hope it won’t be imposed on already beleaguered NHS staff and they are forced to provide the 7 day service against their professional advice. 

Be careful of what you wish for Mr Cameron and Mr Hunt. This one could come back and bite you very hard indeed.

Green Party selection process for London Mayor and GLA list opens on June 1st

The London Green Party's selection process for the 2016 London Mayoral and London Assembly elections opens on Monday June 1st.

All members of the London Green Party are entitled to take part as both candidates and voters. Candidates will need nominations from at least 10 national members of the London Green Party.

Each person nominated will be asked to provide relevant biographical details and a statement making the case for their own selection in their own words.

The name order on the ballot paper will be by lot and candidate statements will be published in the same order.

The ballot will require voters to cast preferences for the candidates and their will be provision for negative voting through the choice of 'Re-open Nominations' (RON).

The London Federation of  the Green Party will hold one hustings for the Assembly List and one for the Mayoral selection.

In addition the Federation will hold an online internal hustings to increase the participation of the wider membership.

Local parties are encouraged to hold hustings, perhaps in conjunction with neighbouring local parties, as long as they make a reasonable effort to invite all nominees.

The London Green Party has agreed the need for gender balance in the London Assembly list so that at least one of the top three should be a woman, at least two of the top five men and at least two women, at least four of the whole list should be men and four women.

Nominations will be kept open for a week longer if there are fewer than this at close of nominations to enable additional candidates to come forward and this will continued week by week as necessary.

Similarly the London Green Party has agreed the need for ethnic balance in the Assembly selection list and will attempt at least two self-defined ethnic candidates in the top 5, and at least 4 in the list of 11.

There will be similar arrangements to those to achieve gender balance through extending the nomination period.

Neither of the two existing Green London Assembly members, Jenny Jones and Darren Johnson, are standing again.

Full details are available on the London Green Party website LINK

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Housing and anti-gentrification campaigns are building up all over London

Housing campaigns are springing up all over London as developers move into areas of social housing to build luxury flats that existing residents cannot afford. Social cleansing and gentrification are forcing families to move away from their workplaces, children's schools, family and social networks. However, resistance is building.

Shakira Martin of NUS (FE) on 'Proper, proper, proper solidarity'

One speaker made a particular impression at yesterday's Downing StreetStreet demonsration against the measures contained in the Government's Queen's Speech. Shakira Martin, from Lewisham, is the newly elected NUS Vice President for Further Education. Shakira spoke about how daily lived experience deepens political understanding and the ability to connect with people and express solidarity.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Natalie Bennett: Don't Get Angry - Get Active!

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, was speaking at the demonstration marking the Conservative Government's Queen's Speech, at Downing Street today.

Earlier Caroline Lucas had given her intial reaction to the Queen's Speech:


Regeneration and Gentrification in South Kilburn

Following his recent guest blog about South Kilburn, Pete Firmin, took me on a tour of the estate and talked about some of the issues confronting residents. In particular we discussed the HS2 vent which HS2 want to site on a carpark next to Queens Park Bakerloo and Overground station but which Brent Council wants to site next to St Mary's Catholic Primary School.

It is estimated that the building the vent will take 6 years and at the construction peak will necessitate 187 truck trips into the site and then 187 out again.

It is not clear that people moving into the new flats have been made aware of the disruption that awaits them.

In this video Pete highlights the issues:

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Kenton Conservatives confirmed as official opposition on Brent Council

It appeared that there might be further consideration of which of the Conservative groups to recognise as the principal opposition during the pretty confusing Annual General Meeting Council meeting on May 20th and resolution before the General Purposes Committee on May 27th was mentioned. A constitutional working party was mentioned.

However I have today confirmed with Council officers that no additional business has been added to the GP Committee agenda  for tomorrow which is below:

1 Declarations of personal and prejudicial interests

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, any relevant financial or other interest in the items on this agenda.

2 Minutes of the previous meeting

3 Matters arising

4 Deputations (if any)

5 Representation of Political Groups on Committees

At its meeting on 20 May 2015 the Council reviewed the representation of political groups on its main committees. As soon as practicable after such a review, those committees are required to conduct a review of the representation of political groups on any sub-committees they may have. This report sets out the rules to be applied during the course of the review.

6 Appointments to Sub-Committees / Outside Bodies
7 Pensions Board membership
The committee will consider nominations for membership of the Pensions Board and a recommendation from officers to appoint an independent Chair.

8 Any other urgent business
The officer stated:
I have not been notified at this time of any other urgent business to be considered at this meeting.   I can also confirm that the principal opposition party was agreed at the annual council meeting on 20 May as the Conservative Group, comprising Cllrs Kansagra, Colwill and Maurice.

Brent want Welsh Harp kept open as Environmental Education Centre

Brent Council has responded to my message regarding the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre. Although they have not answered all my questions they did state:
The Centre is required to be subject to a formal Community Asset Transfer process, which must be an open marketing of the facility. Please see the council’s statement on the matter below -

Councillor Eleanor Southwood, Lead Member for Environment at Brent Council said:
“Although the Centre was due to close following Council budget savings, we have been making strong efforts to ensure that it can continue as a community facility.

“To allow this to happen, we must go through a formal process which involves marketing the facility in an open and transparent way.

“We are committed to helping keep the Centre open as an environmental education centre and we will favour bids which show that they can do this.”

Sufra Foodbank call for support for #FoodParcelChallenge

From Sufra North West London

If you’ve been feasting with family and friends over the Bank holiday weekend, have some pity on the 20 or so volunteers who started the #FoodParcelChallenge yesterday.

Last Sunday, Councillor Roxanne Mashari, Brent Council’s Lead Member for Employment & Skills, turned up at the food bank, alongside 22 other families in need and many volunteers, to pick up a food parcel for the start of the challenge. Together, we’re pledging to live on a typical food parcel for 5 days to raise awareness of food poverty in Brent and fundraise for Sufra NW London’s food bank.

The last financial year witnessed a 62% increase in the number of food parcels delivered, serving 3,858 people of whom more than two-thirds were unique users.

You can check out Councillor Roxanne Mashari’s daily blog on her experiences of taking part in the #FoodParcelChallenge here. Although I’m not sure I agree with her comments on Pea & Mint Soup!

The #FoodParcelChallenge seems easier that it looks. But it only hits you when you’re rummaging through the bags to see what’s for dinner. Yesterday, I had black coffee for breakfast and a biscuit, a can of baked beans for lunch and boiled rice for dinner with a tin of chick peas. And there wasn’t much of it either. You can follow our pangs of hunger and unrepentant rant on Twitter and Facebook.

But we need your help, to keep serving families in poverty and provide them with wholesome, healthy food during their time of crisis. Please support the team and sponsor us here.

The #FoodParcelChallenge will end with The Big Lunch on St. Raphael’s Estate, sponsored by Halifax and Daniel’s Estate Agents, on Saturday 30 May 2015. They’ll be a free barbecue, snacks and milkshakes, plus lots of entertainment. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!


Yes, you have until Saturday, to help us win £1,000 from the Aviva Community Fund to set up a food growing project on St. Raphael’s Estate. This will help us provide fresh fruit and vegetables at the food bank and provide new volunteering and learning opportunities for the local community.

I’m not one to keep to my 5 a day, but now that I’m doing the #FoodParcelChallenge, I would die for a carrot. Even a tomato, and I hate tomatoes.

All you have to do is click here, create a login, and give us 10 votes. Now that’s not too much to ask for, is it? We need 5,000 votes, and we’re only half-way there.

Deadline is Saturday. Do it now.

Brent shows - again - how little it cares for South Kilburn

Demonstration outside the school
 Guest blog by Pete Firmin, South Kilburn resident
On Friday 22nd May, pupils, parents teachers and local residents held a protest at the gates of St. Mary’s Catholic Primary School in South Kilburn against the proposal from Brent Council that the `ventilation shaft’ for HS2 be sited right next to the school and close to flats.
Apparently such ventilation shafts are necessary at certain distances along the line in order to get rid of the air pushed in front of the speeding trains, otherwise they would slow the trains down. Such vent shafts are not a small thing, being usually about 25 m by 25 m and 2 storeys high – the size of a small block of flats. Such an enterprise is calculated to take up to 6 years building work, involving movement of over a hundred lorries a day to and from the affected area at peak times, with the association noise, disruption and dust..
HS2’s current proposal is that this be sited close to Queen’s Park station, but Brent Council is pressing that it be on the Canterbury Works site next to St Mary’s school instead. Some studies suggest a ventilation shaft is not essential at either site.
Brent Council’s proposal ignores the pleas from local residents and school staff and users and is putting its regeneration scheme above any concern for the health and wellbeing of students and residents. They have the support of Queens Park residents in this, who feel the vent shaft would be a “blight” on their community, despite the disruption and siting being much further from their homes and schools than is proposed for South Kilburn. As so often, South Kilburn is seen as the dumping ground for things that Brent and its middle classes regard as `undesirable’.
The issue of Brent and HS2 has a background. The local Tenants and Residents Association has been asking Brent Council about HS2 and how it will affect us for years, ever since we discovered it is due to run underneath (or very close to) our flats. Unfortunately, unlike Camden, Brent Council didn’t seem to be looking at this at all, its only comments being that HS2 offered great `business opportunities’ for Old Oak Common. Even when we got letters from HS2 saying they may want to Compulsorily Purchase our properties we got no support from Brent. We’ve all had at least 2 such letters now, and, despite our urging, Brent Council appears to have done nothing to get proper answers from HS2 on this. Some people have been told verbally that this is just something that HS2 has to do and they will not be wanting to CPO our properties, but we have never had such a commitment from HS2 in writing.
Then, despite us asking for years that Brent take up our concerns and nothing happening, we discovered from a third party that a report on HS2 was due to go to Brent Council  in March last year. This was the first we knew about proposals about the siting of the vent shaft, when the report argued for its siting in South Kilburn rather than next to Queens Park station. We asked that we be allowed to address the Council when it discussed the report, but this was refused. Instead we were given a commitment that our concerns would be taken on board. Given our concerns included opposition to the Council’s push for the vent shaft site to be adjacent to the school and our flats, this was clearly not the case.
Then this year we saw by chance an email from a Council officer to one of our Councillors which said “HS2,  we continue to lobby for this to be relocated from the Council owned site at Salusbury Road car park to the rear of Canterbury Works. Various professional studies have been commissioned which support this Full Council approved stance and have been recently submitted to HS2 for their consideration.”
 Around the same time the headteacher of St Mary's school came away from a meeting with HS2 and Council officers convinced the vent shaft was going to be put next to the school. Soon after leaflets were put through our doors campaigning against the vent shaft being sited there. This came from people associated with the school, and since then they have had a meeting for all parents, produced petitions and initiated the protest outside the school.
Local residents support the opposition from school users to the siting of the shaft here, but there is an added complication. The leaflets put through every door and the drive behind the school campaign come from a PR company employed by the property developers building luxury flats (no social housing) at Canterbury House (also next to the school and a block of flats) and property developers hoping to build a ten-storey block of flats on the Canterbury Works site (currently a vehicle repair site, and the site where Brent wants the vent shaft site to be). 
Many of us are opposed to both the siting of the vent shaft next to the school and our flats and ANY further development of the site. We think that having been living on the middle of a regeneration building site for the last 3 years (with the myriad of complaints that has involved, about which Brent has done nothing), we should have respite from any further development and the disruption, noise and dirt involved. Added to which, the Canterbury House development is luxury flats only (advertised as in Queens Park, even though in the middle of South Kilburn), and development on the Canterbury Works would probably be similar, or at the very least the low proportion of social housing we are now seeing in SK `regeneration’), this would only add to what we have called the `social cleansing’ taking place with regeneration. SK is also already one of the most densely populated parts of Brent. We have lost some our little green space through regeneration, we would like to get some back rather than further development. So, as well as opposing the siting of the vent shaft here, we would oppose planning permission for further flats on the site too. Some of us joined the protest outside the school with placards opposing both the HS2 vent shaft and the property developers.
Just to be clear, the PR company’s employee working with the school put on the “No to HS2 at Canterbury Works” Facebook page “We do not want to see a ventilation shaft at Canterbury Works, we are protecting the interests of Canterbury House and a ventilation shaft would be detrimental to this development and to its future residents who will be part of the South Kilburn community.” Protecting the interests of Canterbury House means the property developers, it couldn’t be more explicit. Future residents seem to take precedence over current ones too. When they started work on Canterbury House (the building has been empty for years, even though planning permission was obtained some time ago), they knew that HS2 was going through the area and people had been served with potential CPO orders. Our belief was that they were hoping for maximum compensation (unlike us!) and that was why they pressed ahead.
We are hoping we can have one united campaign involving both school and local residents against the siting of the vent shaft here. There does seem to be an attempt to keep us at arms length from the school campaign, given our critical stance.
As so often, Brent Council has spent years ignoring the concerns of local residents and is now intent on pressing HS2 to trample on the interests of both school pupils and residents.

Update on Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre leasing

Over the weekend I heard from Brent Council that they were preparing a statement on the leasing of the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre.

These were the questions that I had sent to the Council LINK :

I refer to the advertisement in the Brent and Kilburn Times Ref: JXH/609/121.

1. How long is it envisaged that the lease to land and premises, including the office in Planet House will last?
2. Is it envisaged that the use of the land and premises will remain for educational purposes?
3. Is the land in question consecrated land subject to any change of use being agreed by the Diocesan of London? (see
4. Is it intended that the building and land be leased to one of the following (or a combination): Careys' charity arm, Oakington Manor Primary School, Roe Green Junior School?

With a closing date for comments of Friday June 5th it is important that answers are seen as possible. Commenting without such information is of little value.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Demonstrate against austerity & in defence of unions this week

The General Election result demonstrated that the anti-austerity message failed to get through to the English electorate with the Green Party and TUSC getting nowhere near the kind of breakthrough achieved by the SNP in Scotland and Plaid Cymru in Wales.

There is some comfort in the Spanish election result with Podemos doing well and the win by Ada Colau in Barcelona who was a leading activist in the anti-eviction Platform for Mortgage Victims but the grim truth for us is that we face 5 years of pro-austerity Tory government with no sign of an anti-austerity leftist standing for leadership of the Labour Party.

Ada Colau celebrates in Barcelona

Podemos celebrates in Madrid
In this context, as in Greece and Spain, people are turning to the task of building an anti-austerity coalition and a strategy involving direct action, civil disobedience and new non-sectarian ways of organising that arise from local struggles.

The big People's Assembly Against Austerity demonstration in Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens at the weekend (see below) which was supported by the Green Party demonstrated that there is an appetite in this country to build such a movement.

The Radical Assembly organised by Brick Lane Debates brought together more than 1,000 activists the previous week and it will important that they and the People's Assembly work together.

Here is the Brick Lane Debates statement and proposal for the General Assembly:
Why we have called this meeting:

The general election result has created a crisis. A hard-right austerity regime has taken power with the support of barely one in three voters and one in four of the adult population. The rich are celebrating: the stocks of banks, multinational companies and property developers are soaring. The rest of us will be made to pay.

The reaction has been massive. Thousands of people have joined angry anti-Tory protests, and thousands say they are coming to meetings to discuss what to do. A space has opened up for something that is truly democratic, bottom-up, radical, and based on mass action from below.

Our hope and aim is the creation of a new joined-up radical left movement or network. The movement will be shaped by all of us in the days ahead. But our initial proposals are:

• A movement made up of groups which keep their independence but come together to support each other’s campaigns and plan action.

• A movement rooted in real, localised campaigns and wider struggles, especially those in which the people themselves organise to fight back against injustice and oppression.

• A movement united on every issue – on unemployment and unaffordable rents, on fracking and climate change, on tuition fees and student debt, on the gentrification of our communities, on the privatisation of the NHS, on the violence and racism of the police, on the criminalisation of the homeless and the poor, and so many more.

• A movement controlled democratically, from below, with a loose federal structure which can accommodate an expanding number of independent radical groups and assemblies within it.

• A movement united around broad anti-capitalist aims, these to be formulated by the constituent groups, but agreed by general assemblies.

• A movement which aims to grow and unite people in active struggle against the system.
The People's Assembly is planning further action leading up to the big June 20th demonstration and beyond but it will be important that we are not limited to national demonstrations that like the Grand Old Duke of York lead us up to the top of the hill and down again with little to show for the effort. Action will need to be taken at local level.

Speak Out Against Austerity, Harelsden, Saturday
Progress and success will need to be measured in concrete gains: government measures thwarted, evictions prevented, developers forced to build truly affordable housing,  privatisation defeated, rather than just how many people take part in a march.

The People's Assembly is organising a protest on Wednesday May 27th 'Protest the Queen's Speech - End Austerity Now' assembly in Downing Street at 5.30pm.

The PAAA say:
The Queen's Speech May 27th will set out the the government's legislative plans for the parliamentary session ahead. What can we expect? Massive cuts to welfare, more attacks on immigrants, attempts to limit the right for unions to take strike action, more free schools and academies, abolishing the Human Rights Act and an extension of 'right to buy' ending social housing as we know it. Please do all you can to come down to this important protest.
Then on Saturday  May 30th the PCS union are holding a demonstration in Trafalgar Square, 'Hands Off Our Unions' at 1pm:
This government is attempting to extend the anti-union laws. They want to make it impossible for unions to take strike action. New proposals include imposing a ban on strike action unless at least 40% of union members vote in favour of strike action - hypocritical for a government who gained less than 25% of the populations vote.

This rally is also in support of PCS members in dispute at the National Gallery, striking over attempts to privatise sections of the service.
All this builds up to what is hoped to be a huge demonstation against austerity on June 20th LINK:

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Jobs for Chalkhill and Metropolitan Housing residents

Chalkhill Jobs is run by Olmec's Solid Foundations project in Brent and funded by Well London and Metropolitan Housing. Our aim is to find sustainable employment for Metropolitan Housing residents living in North West London and for residents of the Chalkhill Estate in Wembley Park.

We provide employment support via appointment and through the Job Seeking Support Service which runs from the Chalkhill Community Centre (near Asda) computer room during the following times:
Mon: 10 – 12
Thu: 10 – 12
If you are a Chalkhill or Metropolitan resident drop in for expert assistance with CV Writing, interview advice, application forms, and job search, or simply to ask for the most up to date list of jobs we're currently recruiting for.
The computer room is also open on a Tuesday between 10am and 4pm for residents to use the facilities for job, education, or house swap purposes.
If you would like us to consider your CV for our live vacancies or want to make an appointment for specific advice please email

LINK to current vacancies

Friday, 22 May 2015

Brent Healthwatch to be farmed out to Barnet organisation

The June 1st Cabinet will be asked to approve the award of the Brent Healthwatch contract to CommUNITY Barnet LINK

The contract worth £149,110 pa will commence on July 1st 2015.

Healthwatch Brent is currently being delivered by a local consortium of organisations, which include Brent Mencap, Elders Voice, Brent Citizens Advice Bureau and Age UK Brent. Healthwatch Brent is an independent community interest company established by the consortium.

The aim of local Healthwatch is to act as the consumer voice for health and social care. It aims to benefit patients, users of services, carers and the public by helping to get the best out of services, improving outcomes, and helping services to be more responsive to what people want and need.

The May 2015 Healthwatch Brent bulletin can be found HERE 
At the Healthwatch Brent  public board meeting on 17th March HWB reported that the current  Community Interest Company   had decided not bid for the new Healthwatch tender:
 The Healthwatch Brent contract was re-tendered by Brent council – the closing date was 16th March.  This current Community Interest Company decided not to submit a bid.
In response to a questioner asking why they had not bid for the contract the board said:
Healthwatch was new when we created a consortium of local organisations and community Directors to run HWB. The experience and reach of the partners was a real strength. However, the structure was complicated and it was harder to deliver than we expected. We have laid a foundation for a new organisation to make further progress.  

Healthwatch Brent worked with Healthwatch Barnet in the development of HWBs enter and view training. Some of the current HWB staff will transfer to Healthwatch Barnet/Community Barnet.  Healthwatch Brent will continue its work and we hope that Brent people will get an even better Healthwatch with the support of Community Barnet.

Risks involved in Brent Youth Service changes include £5m loss on Roundwood Youth Centre

The Cabinet on June 1st will consider a paper on the future of Brent Youth Service. LINK The Council has committed to cuts of 71%: £100k in 2016-17 and a massive £900k in 2016-17. This will result in a cut of  £1m compared to 2015 on net expenditure (£414,394 in 2016-17 compared with £1,414,34 in 2014-15).

They propose a 'third sector;' solution through the setting up of an independent organisation - 'The Young Brent Foundation' which would have charitable status. The Foundation would work with a range of voluntary organisations, social enterprises and charities and attempt to draw in support from grants and sponsorship.

The John Lyon Trust has told the Council it will welcome an application for a three grant of  £100k per annum to support core funding costs while the paper suggests running costs will be £177k per annum.

Although replete with vision and priorities based on the needs of the most vulnerable the paper does not disguise the risks inherent in the strategy.

The paper states that the running costs of the four youth centres (Granville, Poplar Grove, Roundwood and Wembley) cannot be met. They suggest a community asset transfer for Roundwood and activities by different providers under licenses or short-term occupation at the other centres.

They state: 'If no opportunities are identified for the Granville and Wembley youth centres, the Youth Service will have to consider vacating the premises as there will be no funding available within the budget envelope to pay for the running costs.'

Following discussion of the 'risks and delivery issues' associated with community asset transfers the report states:
In the case of the Roundwood Centre current restrictions on the hours and type of use will also limit commercial opportunities for any new provider. An obvious implication is that there is a risk that youth centre provision at Roundwood would cease from April 2016 if a transfer was not achieved.

...If the Council is not able to fund or secure an alternative provider to run youth provision at Roundwood, the Council could also be required to repay, in full or in part, the National Lottery grant of £4.997m which was used to support the development of the centre.
Readers will remember that the closure of Stonebridge Adventure Playground also involves a payback to the National Lottery.

The paper proposes the continuation of the Brent Youth Parliament at a cost of £60k per annum  because of its 'valuable role in within the Council's decision making process'  with its transfer to the corporate team in the Chief Operating Officer's department.

This is an interesting move as one would expect the Youth Parliament to be at the forefront of a campaign to save the youth service and thus assert its independence, while at the same time the proposals ensure the YP's own survival.

The Youth Parliament, if the Cabinet accepts the proposals, will be part of a consultation on the proposals that start this month and will culminate in the strategy for the future of the service to go to Cabinet in October 2015.  The paper notes that a Full Council decision may be required.

In the budget discussions earlier this year the Council managed to deflect concerns about the future of the youth service, which initially seemed to entail the total closure of the service, through this review. Although they will argue that this does not amount to total closure it clearly may eventually result in something very close to that.

Wembley bomb - current road diversions

Brent Council has issued the map below this morning. There is due to be a controlled explosion of the bomb today.

First pictures of the Wembley bomb

British Army Phootographer Rupert Frere has circulated these pictures of the Wembley bomb via Twitter (@Rupert_Frere #WembleyBomb).  Work is going on to defusethe bomb which was found on a building site close to the Civic Centre yesterday.

The Civic Centre will be closed on Friday with skeleton services run from the Bridge Park Leisure Centre.

This is a map of where bombs fell in the area during the London Blitz 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941. There was additional bombing outside this period of course.

Source LINK

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Kilburn councillors 'disenfranchised' claims Cllr John Duffy

Amid the Tory Party infighting last night at the Brent Council Annual General Meeting there was a protest from Cllr John Duffy (Labour, Kilburn) that Kilburn ward councillors had not been given one committee place on the Council.

He claimed that this meant Kilburn residents had been disenfranchised.

Muhammed Butt, Labour leader of Brent Council replied that 'previous conduct' of councillors had been taken into account when selecting committee members.

Duffy attempted to persuade the Council to raise Council Tax earlier this year in an effort to save Stonebridge Adventure Playground,  the Welsh Harp Environment Education Centre and Energy Solutions from closure.

Brent Civic Centre closed tomorrow for controlled explosion of World War 2 bomb - residents' rest centre at Chalkhill Community Centre

Brent Council has issued the following statement about the unexploded Worls War II  bomb found near the Civic Centre:
You may have already heard that Police were called at around 3pm today to a building site on Empire Way, Wembley, to reports of an unexploded device believed to be from World War 2.

It was discovered by builders working at the location and it is believed to weigh approximately 50kg. Road closures along with a 400m cordon is in place around the site which includes the Civic Centre, whilst work is underway to make safe the device.

As a precaution, a number of residential and business addresses have also been evacuated, including residents of Alexander Court and Ada Lewis House. At this stage we do not know exactly how long this incident is likely to last however, a rest centre has been set up at Chalkhill Community Centre for affected residents.
Brent Civic Centre will be closed all day on Friday 22 May as the council has been advised that bomb disposal experts are planning a controlled explosion at some stage tomorrow morning. Business continuity plans are being activated to ensure vital council services keep running although these may be skeleton services in some cases.
Employees who are able to work from home are being advised to do so, unless your line manager has told you otherwise. Some core staff will need to be based at Bridge Park Community Leisure Centre on Friday and your line manager will talk to you if are required. If you are unable to work from home on Friday you are advised not to come to the Civic Centre as it will not be open.

A gold group, chaired by the Chief Executive, has been activated and we will update you with more information about the impact on services when we know more. An emergency phone line is also being set up and live updates will be available on the council website and twitter feed as we get them.

Follow @Brent_Council on Twitter for updates

Final outcome of Tory showdown at Brent's OK Corrall uncertain

Last night's Full Meeting of Brent Council must have left the new Chief Executive Carolyn Downs wondering about the tough task ahead in getting the Council out of its slough of despond, while Christine Gilbert could be forgiven for celebrating her forthcoming liberation by performing  cartwheels in the Civic Centre atrium.

The showdown between the two groups of Tory Councillors dominated the business part of the meeting but when the gunfire died down no one could agree on the final outcome.

The 56 Labour councillors may have decided to recognise the Kenton Tories as the principal opposition with the status and funding that goes with that or the decision may have been  handed over to a constitutional working party to negotiate on before the next meeting of the General Purposes Committee.

CLARIFICATION (sic) These are the responses I got this morning:
Brent Council Press Office:
The group led by Cllr Kansagra was voted in as the principal opposition last night.  
Cllr Michael Pavey (Deputy Leader - Labour)
As it stands Kenton are the principal Opposition. There is a meeting of the constitution committee next week which will review the situation,  but only a vote by Full Council or a change in the number of members in either Tory Group can change this.
The next challenge is to try and allocate Committees between the two.
Cllr Joel Davidson (Briondesbury Park Conservatives)
What happened is that Mo Butt has chosen the Kenton Group to be Principal Opposition, that's what he got his Group to vote for last night. That means that Kansagra and Colwill will once again draw the allowances - 12k and 8k - that come with being Leader and Deputy Leader.

The constitutional working party, if there is one, is supposed to negotiate between the 2 Opposition Groups - Brent Tories and Kenton/Butt Group - as to who sits on the 6 main committees - GP, planning, equalities etc. 

If we can't agree, as seems very likely, then Council will again vote to give all the main committee posts to the Kenton/Butt Group.  It's another sad day for democracy in Brent when a Dear Leader can hand-pick a pliant Opposition which has no political affiliation and is committed to giving him as easy a ride as possible.  As I asked Butt last night - is 56 Labour Cllrs not enough that you need to co-opt 3 more AND make them the 'Opposition'??  

Meanwhile the tweets can tell the story: